Playtech Bingo Sites
Who are Playtech?
Playtech describe themselves as an integral part of online gaming history and they aren’t wrong! Founded just before the turn of the millennium, they have been powering casinos since 2001. In 2006 Playtech became a public company (at first listed on the London alternative investment market and progressing to the main market in 2012). By 2010, the year in which they made massive inroads into the UK bingo market with their acquisition of Virtue Fusion, they already had their fingers in many other pies including the huge market that is sports betting. Today they have getting on for 5000 employees spread across several different countries and they have big plans!
Playtech’s vision of the future
Playtech Bingo is the new name for Virtue Fusion, in a rebranding that has been on the cards ever since the bingo software developer was taken over by the iGaming giant. In fact it is not just the bingo side of things that is being rebranded, but all of Playtech’s gambling related products, under the banner of Playtech ONE. Playtech ONE means one wallet, one view, one platform for all content, all channels and all devices; in Playtech’s vision of the omni-channel future of iGaming you will be able to use your account to play any of their products on any device anywhere, anytime (and that includes devices such as TVs and games arcade terminals as well as computers and phones). As far as bingo is concerned this vision grew much closer to reality in autumn 2016 with Playtech’s acquisition of ECM systems, who are behind the electronic bingo terminals at Gala and Mecca’s bingo halls.
This all sounds amazing BUT there is something currently important to bingo players that has no place in Playtech ONE and that is Adobe Flash.
What is Adobe Flash and why should I be bothered about it?
Adobe Flash is a browser multimedia plugin that has been around since the mid 1990s (it was previously known as Macromedia Flash) and is used for video content and interactive games – including bingo games and including the Virtue Fusion bingo software we all know and love.
Why is Playtech abandoning Flash?
Basically, Flash is confined to desktop PCs these days (and not even all of those) – it is not available on Apple or Android devices or Windows phones – and this is completely at odds with Playtech’s stated aim of seamless play across all devices. Nor will they be the first bingo platform to move on from Flash – Cozy did that quite some time ago.
The decline of Flash
The writing has been on the wall for Flash for quite some time now. Arguably it started when YouTube, which at launch in 2005 was originally based around the Flash player, added HTML5 in 2007 so that it would work on iPads and other Apple devices (since 2015, YouTube defaults to HTML5). In 2010, Apple published a statement confirming that there would never be any support for Flash on iPads or iPhones. The following year, Adobe announced that it would be ceasing development of Flash for mobile platforms in favour of HTML5 (for browser content) and Adobe Air (for standalone apps). In Android versions 4.1 (aka Jelly Bean) and later (from July 2012), Flash is not supported and although it is possible to install it anyway with a little technical know-how, it does not integrate well with touch screens. In July 2015 a further blow was dealt to the ageing plugin when the popular browser Mozilla Firefox blocked Flash completely citing security concerns. Facebook’s head of security sent a tweet calling on Adobe to announce a date for the end of Flash. Subsequently Google’s Chrome browser began to block Flash ads and as of 2016 Chrome uses its own version of Flash (Pepper Flash) instead of Adobe’s, again because of security issues. Google is now blocking Flash in all but the top ten sites (and those are to follow later). It can only be a matter of time until either every browser stops supporting Flash completely, or Adobe themselves pull the plug.
What are Playtech doing instead?
Playtech Bingo is written in HTML5 not Flash – basically bringing a souped up version of the version that was already in use on tablets and mobiles to the desktop. Playtech Bingo has many advantages over Virtue Fusion Bingo, perhaps the most important being its lightning speed compared to the old platform. No more cases of the game starting before you can get the bingo room open to buy tickets! It does look quite different to the old Flash version though and some functions can be difficult to find at first, so it takes some getting used to.
Goodbye forever to this annoyance!
How long will it take?
Your guess is as good as ours! Newer Playtech powered bingo sites such as Aztec Bingo have been launching with HTML5 only but several of the older ones still have the Flash desktop version available and as yet there is no timetable for completing the migration away from it. The first bingo site to make the move from Flash to HTML5 was the mighty Gala Bingo and since February 2016 Gala players have been able to choose whichever version of the lobby and bingo rooms they prefer (although it has to be HTML5 if they want to play Gala’s newer bingo games such as Big Banker, The Chase and Emmerdale Bingo). Many other sites have followed suit and kept the old version for existing players who prefer it. We expect Flash to remain supported for a while yet but for any new innovations (from Cash Cubes onward) to appear in the new HTML5 bingo lobby only. Eventually, presumably, the Flash version will be phased out completely but when this happens depends on all sorts of factors some of which – such as whether and when Google and/or Mozilla take further hostile action against the plugin – are completely beyond the control of both Playtech and the bingo sites in question.
What will happen to the Virtue Fusion name?
The branding has started to change already but the sites which are now displaying Playtech branding are not just the new HTML5 sites, but those which are using a Playtech front end called Portal. This user interface allows other Playtech products including a much bigger range of slots and in some cases sports, poker or live casino to be played at the same site with the same wallet and login as the bingo; clearly this is a big step towards Playtech’s omni-channel vision even though many of the Portal sites still have not migrated their bingo offering from Flash to HTML5.
So far, smaller sites which do not have Portal retain the Virtue Fusion branding regardless of which version of the software they have, probably because their Gambling Commission licence is held by Virtue Fusion Alderney.